Disney promises fresh adventures for fresh produceNEW ORLEANS Disney-branded produce has already enjoyed a tripling of sales over the past two years, and Disney is aggressively adding produce partners and character options to put on the front of fruit and vegetable packs.

"We feel we"re really hitting our stride now and picking up momentum in helping establish lifelong, healthy habits for children," said John King, licensing director for Disney Consumer Products in Glendale, Calif., speaking at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2013. "We"ve optimized where we go to market, and we"ve got a good corral of marketing partners."

The newest of those is Oxnard, Calif.-based Freska Produce International LLC mangoes, which expects to start featuring Disney characters by early 2014. Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak is also coming out with packaging featuring Marvel characters such as Spiderman and the Avengers.

Freska"s Mexican mango packaging will feature Disney characters by spring.

"We"re looking for retailers to join us in our promotion. This new market trend is geared toward moms and kids, and we"re hoping to get kids to try mangoes and hopefully they"ll then eat them for life," managing member and co-founder Gary Clevenger said. "It"s the most-eaten fruit in the world just not in the U.S."

Which Disney characters will grace the packaging and which labeling will be used on which packaging are all factors yet to be determined, but the picture could clear within weeks, following a meeting between Freska and Disney, Clevenger said.

Next on the horizon, fresh produce could don packaging with the likes of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader or even Indiana Jones.

"We"ve finalized the deal, and we"re happy to incorporate the (George) Lucas team into the Disney universe," King said.

King estimates a six-month turnaround time for getting new characters on partners" produce packaging, and, with five "Star Wars" films scheduled for the next five years, King is betting the new Lucasfilm character possibilities will dramatically increase interest for fresh produce packaging.